Beware, it?s Punjab the mean machine

With the direct face-off between Delhi and Haryana expected to hog all the limelight and likely to be the object of everyone's interest, considering its resonance, the Punjab-Services match to be played at Palam grounds on Thursday is rendered purely academic and inconsequential.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2006 22:42 IST

With the direct face-off between Delhi and Haryana expected to hog all the limelight and likely to be the object of everyone's interest, considering its resonance, the Punjab-Services match to be played at Palam grounds on Thursday is rendered purely academic and inconsequential.

Punjab has virtually signed, sealed and safely shunted their qualification issue in deep freeze and the team, going by their idiosyncrasies, appears to be in epoch of promising change. Their Machiavellian operation in the tournament has come up with clockwork precision, having waltzed past Haryana, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir nonchalantly and the thought of facing Services next, albeit at their home turf, is unlikely to affect their sound slumber.

With perspicacious Dinesh Mongia giving the roar to his lions, the team looks menacing as ever and has become the yardstick by which others are judged and measured. With every passing game, new protagonist surfaces along with the ubiquitous Mongia -- in the last match it was Uday Kaul who scored a fantastic century on his ODI debut -- and a slip-up is highly unlikely despite some changes likely being in the offing.

The insatiable desire for success and the indomitable will to fight has been the traits that have marked them out in this tournament and skipper Mongia has already stressed on the importance of keeping the ball rolling.

The story of Services is quite the opposite. They resurrected their campaign after starting it on an inauspicious note against Himachal, by hammering Jammu and Kashmir. But were found out against well-endowed antagonists from Haryana in the following match and are now pragmatically out of reckoning to qualify from the North Zone.

The team' over dependence on one or two individuals, like Yashpal and Sarabjit Singh, has long been their bane and has been brutally exposed in this tournament.

The inconsistency seems to be another impediment to their progress and the lackadaisical attitude too, which was ostensible in the last match, when they squandered a promising position and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Haryana, is not helping matters.

However, such ephemeral is success and failure in cricket, especially in ODIs, that it does not take long for fortunes to turn on their head. And a win on Thursday against Punjab, however delusional it may sound, can at least provide a flicker of hope and a foundation to build on for the Servicemen.

With nothing to gain and almost everything to lose from this game, especially pride, Services is expected to give all in their bid to salvage some of it. It won't be easy, it never is against such obdurate opponents from Punjab, but then giving it a fair-dinkum shot won't hurt and in the end, might be worth it.

Services (from): Sarabjit Singh (C), P.M.S Reddy, S.S Tomar, Jasbir Singh, Yashpal Singh, S.Upadhayay, A.K Mohanty, Narender Kumar, Arun Sharma, Sudhakar Ghag, Fazil Mohammed, K.G Chawra, Pankaj Kumar, H.P Naidu and Amrender Singh.

Punjab (from): Dinesh Mongia (captain), Reetinder Sodhi, Ravneet Ricky, Pankaj Dharmani, Uday Kaul, Sonny Sohel, Bipul Sharma, VRV Singh, Gagandeep Singh, Amit Uniyal, Hardavinder Sandhu, Ishan Malhotra, Rajesh Sharma, Sandeep Sanwal and Sarabjeet Singh.

First Published: Feb 15, 2006 22:42 IST